To great fanfare, President Barack Obama has pledged to put an end to America’s “combat mission” in Iraq by the beginning of September “as promised and on schedule.” There may be no small measure of incredulity for those who remember his campaign promise to have all the troops out by May, but it seems the 50,000 figure, announced shortly after he took office, will be met, give or take a few thousand.
This will mark the formal end to America’s combat mission in Iraq, but the combat won’t actually end, nor will the troops stop engaging in it. Rather, the administration has decided to redefine the 50,000 combat troops that will still be in Iraq, still engaging in combat, as a “transitional” force.
The 50,000 were initially slated to be there “indefinitely,” but officially now seem to be pointing to the Bush Administration’s date, the end of 2011 as negotiated in the Status of Forces Agreement, as the presumptive end of this deployment. This comes with a couple of caveats, one being the prospect that the US may seek a new UN mandate to keep troops beyond the date.
The other, perhaps bigger caveat, is that the US State Department is already hard at work creating their own alternative military, planning to step in and take over all combat operations itself when (or rather if) the Pentagon is forced, by the terms of the treaty, to leave.
While we may be glad that the level of US soldiers in Iraq has dropped somewhat since President Obama took office, large portions of these troops were “transitioned” straight into Afghanistan, and with violence still on the rise the US role in Iraq doesn’t look to be ending any time soon.